Distance: 153-250 kilometres depending on detours
Don't be fooled by the distance. This stunning Jurassic Coast, England's only natural World Heritage-listed site, crams in so much and boasts so many inland temptations that you could easily spend five days enjoying it, whether behind the wheel, on foot or in the water.
Rimming most of Dorset and dipping into neighbouring East Devon, the Jurassic Coast takes you on a geological journey through time – its rocks cover 185 million years of the dinosaur-dominated Mesozoic era. Fossil hunters will be in their element, but so too will foodies, historians, hikers, artists and literary lovers.
- Scenic walks on the South West Coast Path.
- Sampling delicious seasonal produce at some of the country's best delis and gastropubs.
- Browsing galleries full of art inspired by the region's rolling green landscapes, epic coastline and fossil heritage.
- Bedding down in spruced-up farm buildings, cosy inns and ivy-clad Georgian cottages.
- Taking in the gorgeous locations of hit TV show Broadchurch.
Day 1 - Bournemouth To Corfe Castle
From Bournemouth, take the Sandbanks car ferry, which crosses Poole Harbour three times every hour, to Studland where you should park and tread the clifftop path towards Old Harry Rocks. The coast's most easterly point, these dazzling white stacks are typical of the chalky scenery that dominates southeast Dorset.
For lunch, try Brownsea Island rock oysters or pressed pheasant and chicken terrine at The Pig on the Beach in Studland, or drive to nearby Swanage for fish and chips on the waterfront.
Spend the afternoon roaming the ruins of Corfe Castle, which was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarian army during the English Civil War. Corfe's grey-stone village is a quaint place to spend the night.
Day 2 - Corfe Castle To Weymouth
Drive south to Lulworth Cove where an excellent heritage centre reveals how geology and erosion have fashioned this dramatic coastline. Thigh-straining clifftop walks offer fabulous vantage points, while kayaking trips let you glide past caves, blowholes and under the iconic stone arch of Durdle Door.
Head to Weymouth, hub of the sailing events at the 2012 Olympic Games. There's a raft of enticing places to eat, drink and sleep, and the Isle of Portland is close by.
Connected to the mainland by a causeway, Portland is renowned for its red-and-white-striped lighthouse and historic quarries (the British Museum and St Paul's Cathedral are among the landmarks constructed with the local limestone).
Day 3 - Weymouth To Dorchester
Amble along Weymouth's Chesil Beach, a sweeping 30-kilometre barrier of shingle that acted as the backdrop to Ian McEwan's 2007 novel, On Chesil Beach. Then drive north into the endearingly pastoral 'Hardy Country', where Thomas Hardy lived and set his books.
Visit his thatched cottaged birthplace in the village of Higher Bockingham, and Max Gate, the red-brick mansion he built with his literary riches. Both edge Dorchester, a bustling market town that doubled up as Hardy's fictional Casterbridge.
There's a recreation of Hardy's study – and heaps of fossils – in the town's Dorset County Museum. Dorchester's pubs excel in Dorset real ales and hearty, home-made fare.
Day 4 - Dorchester To Lyme Regis
Make a beeline for the sheer sandstone cliffs of West Bay, near Bridport. You might recognise them from Far From The Madding Crowd, the 2015 cinematic remake of Hardy's novel, or Broadchurch, the ABC drama starring David Tennant.
The Jurassic Coast's loftiest point, the 191-metre-high Golden Cap, is a great photo stop on the way to Lyme Regis, one of Dorset's loveliest seaside resorts.
Guided fossil walks are run by the town's museum, which displays awe-inspiring finds including the skull of an ichthyosaur (carnivorous marine reptile) that 19th-century paleontologist Mary Anning extracted from Lyme's cliffs.
Day 5 - Lyme Regis To Exmouth
Stroll the sea walls of The Cobb, Lyme's curving man-made harbour, or through the Undercliff, a birdlife-rich nature reserve shaped by landslips. Bid farewell to Dorset and cross the county border into Devon where the desert-red cliffs and sea stacks of Ladram Bay and Orcombe Point are highly Instagrammable.
The latter – the Jurassic's most westerly marker – is just outside Exmouth, said to be Devon's oldest seaside town. The nearest city, with an airport, train station and car hire drop-off point, is Exeter, another 30-minute drive away.
Words and photographs: Steve McKenna